VAIL — Crowds were large and loud Saturday at the only U.S. stop on the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s World Cup bouldering calendar this year.
Hosting scores of the best climbers in the world, Vail’s Mountain Plaza venue packed in people by the hundreds as athletes attempted to unseat last year’s champions, Dmitri Sharafutdinov and Anna Stohr, both of whom made the finals again this year.
Climbing simultaneously, men and women attempt a series of four “problems,” or hold configurations, on a USA Climbing wall that’s easily changeable between rounds.
While Sharafutdinov was able to reach the top on all of the problems for the win once again this year, Stohr ran into trouble right from the get-go, failing to finish the first configuration. Japanese climber Akiyo Noguchi was nearly flawless, finishing all problems with ease and claiming top honors on the day.
“The big audience helped me,” she said. “Good place and good competition, it’s like my dream.”
After the event, organizers said the crowds as a whole at the GoPro Mountain Games on Saturday were the biggest in the event’s 13-year history.
“Over a thousand athletes (both human and canine) jumped, paddled, ran, rode, climbed and even crawled their way on and around Vail Mountain on Day 3 of the GoPro Mountain Games,” promoters wrote in a press release Saturday evening. “Tens of thousands of spectators filled the streets of Vail.”
FOR THE KIDS
The kids on the Vail Athletic Club Climbing Team packed out the front row of the stands, many saying they arrived an hour ahead of time to claim their spots. Some of those kids volunteered to work the event; the kids who volunteered the most time got to join the athletes on stage during the awards ceremony. Vail Athletic Club Climbing Team member Ethan Pitcher, 13, is Canadian, and received the honor of presenting Canadian climber Sean McColl with their country’s flag during the awards. McColl placed third on the day.
“He’s my favorite climber,” Pitcher said.
Pitcher qualified for divisional championships and will head to California next week to compete.
Only a few years older than Pitcher at 16 is Megan Mascarenas, the lone American to make the finals at this year’s International Federation of Sport Climbing World Cup in Vail. The crowd took a quick liking to her after she solved the first problem in dramatic fashion, and fans chanted “U-S-A, U-S-A” during the rest of her climbs.
Mascarenas, who is from Colorado Springs, said she could feel the energy of the crowd while climbing.
“Especially on the fourth route, they were screaming,” she said after the event. “You were almost tempted to fall off, but the crowd just, like, holds you on the wall.”
Mascarenas just missed the podium in fourth place.
CLIMBING AT YOUTH OLYMPICS
Following the competition, International Federation of Sport Climbing President Marco Scolaris made an exciting announcement.
“The International Olympic Committee announced a special place at the youth Olympic Games this year in Nanjing, China. This place is now called the sport laboratory, and in this sport laboratory four sports will be able to display their sport,” he said. “These four sports are skateboarding, speed roller skating, wushu — which is huge in China — and sport climbing. ... We hope, of course, that this will definitely help our sport to get into the Olympics, so keep your fingers crossed, and maybe next year we will have some good news for you.”